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The rising from the dead not recorded. Why ?—The resurrection not witnessed by any mortal eye—The advantage to us of this arrangement—The dawn of the great morning.
"How calm and beautifnl the morn,
That gilds the sacred tomb,
And veiled in midnight gloom!
"In the end of the Sabbath as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, * * * behold there was a great earthquake; for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow. And for fear of him the keepers did shake and became as dead men."—Matt, xxviii. 1—5.
It is a remarkable fact, that the actual scene of the resurrection of our Lord, not only was not witnessed by any human eye, but is not recorded by any of the evangelists. This is a striking fact, the significance of which is commonly overlooked. Indeed the fact itself has not been noticed, and yet it is a fact of no small interest. They record the closed grave, the watch, and the seal, on the evening of the sixth day. They then record the open and empty grave on the morning of the first day, but that mysterious and stupendous event by which the grave was emptied is not recorded. It is announced immediately by the aDgels as having taken place, and afterwards established by the most unanswerable evidence; but its actual occurrence is not recorded by any of the sacred writers. The omission is a very remarkable one, considering the momentous importance of the occurrence itself. Had these writers been inventing a fiction, such an omission would have been incredible. This fact being the main fact of the story, it would have been narrated with details of time and attendant circumstances in the most careful manner, so that all cavil should be excluded. But inasmuch as there was really no eyewitness to the fact itself, in its actual occurrence, they refrain from recording that occurrence, with a strict and scrupulous regard to historical accuracy that is very striking; and that is one of those minute marks of absolute verity that would never occur to an inventor, but which, when brought to our notice, illustrates the conscientious and careful truthfulness of the writers in the-most convincing manner.
The nearest approach to such a record is in the words of Matthew above, but this only records the opening of the grave by the angel, an event of which there were eye-witnesses in the keepers, but not the actual rising from the dead and coming forth from the grave, of which there was no eyewitness. It is obvious from the record, that the resurrection must have taken place about the dawning of the day, and was perhaps coincident with the rolling away of the stone by the angel; but this fact is matter of inference and not of record. Hence, to attempt a description of this sublime and stupendous scene, would be to attempt what the evangelists have not attempted, and to supplement the records of inspiration. A veil of deep mystery and awe is hung over the actual event, which it were presumption in us to endeavour to remove.
But the question may naturally be asked, Why was it thus left? Why were the death and the ascension made to occur in the presence of witnesses, whilst the resurrection, an event that is declared to lie at the foundation of the whole system of Christianity, was witnessed by none? Why did not Christ rise in the presence of a crowd, as he had died, and thus compel their belief in his divine mission, and their recognition of his claims as Messiah?
It might be sufficient to reply, that it is no pa/t of the scheme of redemption to compel belief, and that we have no right to either expect or demand more than sufficient evidence to warrant belief. And there were reasons of fitness that doubtless required that this august and awful scene should take place, not in the presence of a clamorous crowd, but in the sublime solitude of that silent dawn, when the keepers were as dead men. But there" is another reason usually overlooked, that has no small force. Whether it was so arranged for this special purpose, we will not affirm. But it is obvious that, by this arrangement, this fundamental fact of the Christian system, in which all have exactly the same interest, comes to all with exactly the same proof. To the first disciples, with the doubtful exception of Mary Magdalene, it was brought as it is to us, a matter of testimony supported by subsequent proof. The women were called to believe it on the testimony of the angels, the disciples on the testimony of the women, and the world on the testimony of the disciples. The women had subsequent corroboration of the testimony of the angels, the disciples of theirs, and we of the disciples; but in each case, the first demand to believe is on the same ground, the testimony of competent witnesses, and not ocular demonstration. The subsequent proofs in the case of the women and disciples include this ocular demonstration; but they were required first to believe on the testimony of competent and credible witnesses, just as we are, and not on the evidence of their own senses. Hence it is apparent that in this fundamental fact, all are placed on the same level; and the only question that can be raised is whether we possess corroborating proof of the testimony handed down to us, that ought to satisfy us, and that by the ordinary laws of human belief warrant and require an assent. This will be discussed when we reach the testimony.
We have here then the dawn of the great morning, the rising of the Sun of righteousness with healing in his wings. And like all the great facts that lie at the foundation of our hopes, it is so arranged as to be matter of faith corroborated by reason, supported by sufficient and unanswerable proof; but after all presented to us as a thing to. be believed because it is true, and not because we can prove it to be true. The measure of our ability to establish the truth is not the measure of the truth itself, and hence faith is demanded of men as a duty, and not requested as a favour, and unbelief is a damning sin. When the day has dawned, the light is its own evidence to the open eye.